About etiquetteer.com

Etiquetteer is known socially as Robert B. Dimmick. A native of Louisiana, Mr. Dimmick emigrated North for education, finally settling in that Athens of America, Boston, Massachusetts.

Mr. Dimmick spent his childhood attending weddings, reading Emily Post’s Etiquette, and being teased and taunted by other children for minding his mother, taking everything the preacher said seriously, and generally being a Good Boy. This ultimately led to an aversion to organized sports, television, and popular culture in general, and definite opinions about everything from restaurant dining to wedding dresses to historic preservation. Mr. Dimmick believes in the sartorial legacy of President Harry S Truman, getting out of the way of oncoming traffic quickly, and the tasteful expression of free speech. He is, all too often, willing to express an opinion on just about anything.

By day, Mr. Dimmick plans class reunions for one of those great big universities. By night he enjoys club openings, dinner parties, memoirs of the Fabulous, yoga, the music of the American songbook, and spirited conversation with friends. He invites you to behave with Perfect Propriety whether you want to or not.


Etiquetteer at Random, Vol. 13, Issue 56

November 23rd, 2014 . by Etiquetteer

Inspired by an interview with Bill Nye the Science Guy, today Etiquetteer divulges a little about himself:

My uniform: A crisply-pressed double-breasted suit, white shirt with French cuffs, a bright bow tie, polished leather shoes (wingtips unless traveling, then slip-ons). That Mr. Dimmick Who Thinks He Knows So Much is rather fond of garishly bright socks. I have to remonstrate with him constantly about it.

One thing that few people understand about etiquette is: that it’s less about accessories (place cards, etc.) and more about the impact you have on other people, how respect for others - or at least acknowledgement of our common humanity - is displayed. On the other hand, one shows respect for others by taking the trouble to appear well dressed, which some would say is all about accessories.

The most overrated etiquette trend is: the phonestack. It maintains the focus on the phone, and not on the group or its conversation. Everyone needs to power down and enjoy each other’s company without distraction from outside.

I stay in shape by: that’s a dangerous assumption to make. I don’t stay in shape.

One of my favorite gadgets is: A card case with two compartments that I got in New York for $12 at some little shop. I use one compartment for my cards, and the other for those I receive.

My preferred mode of transportation is: Any car someone else is driving!

My drink of choice is: during the summer, an Etiquetteer pink gin. Otherwise, a Charlie’s Beacon, as will be served at Repeal Day. During the holidays, champagne with a bit of something like Aperol or St. Germain or Chambord added.

My most recent obsession is: Eric Helgar, a Polish singer of the interwar years.

One book everyone must read is: The Art of Worldly Wisdom, by Baltasar Gracian.

The world would not be the same without: air conditioning and refrigeration.

An etiquette rule that amazes me is: how it’s all right for certain professional classes - doctors, politicians, and the clergy come to mind - to address everyone else by their first names, while we all need to address them by their titles. It can, and often does, appear condescending, especially when politicians do it. I would much rather see everyone addressed by their titles since we live in a Land where All are Created Equal.

One thing everyone should do more of is: reconsider how much stuff you carry around on your commute and eliminate everything you don’t use that day. I’ve stopped toting a bag every day and it makes a great difference.

Another thing everyone should do more of is: enjoy a meal at home by candlelight, even if it’s a pre-dawn winter breakfast.

The best toy for a child is: Hmm, what is a toy that will instill Perfect Propriety? And of course different children react differently to all toys. Rather than mention a specific toy, I’ll say that the best toy for a child is something simple that doesn’t throw everything at them, that allows them, encourages them to use their imaginations.

My favorite kitchen gadget is: Most people will expect me to say “the cook,” but I live in what used to be called a “servantless household.” The best answer is probably a garishly decorated stopper for a wine bottle.

My favorite pastime is: reading.

Another book everyone must read is: Entertaining Is Fun! by Dorothy Draper. This book captures the joie de vivre of the suburban postwar years, as well as a look at how etiquette was changing. Formal seated dinners were giving way to buffets, but Americans weren’t yet ready to give up on black tie for evening events. And there are some frankly far-fetched, but nonetheless delightful, ideas for having a party at home.

What a Gentleman Does, Vol. 13, Issue 55

November 21st, 2014 . by Etiquetteer

It takes courage to own up to a mistake, especially one that has had a negative impact on others, and very especially one that has exploded on social media to mark one a Very Bad Person. But that’s what a gentleman is, someone who has the courage to admit a mistake and to do what’s possible to make up for it. So Etiquetteer has to salute Jeff Conklin, the resident of the South End of Boston who parked his BMW next to a fire hydrant last week, rendering it useless in fighting a house fire.

Unlike the generally accepted stereotype of BMW owners as simply not caring about the consequences to others of their actions, Mr. Conklin has taken the trouble to visit the neighborhood firehouse to apologize personally to the firefighters whose essential work was jeopardized. Etiquetteer can only imagine the strength of character that took, and can only express admiration.

Boston Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham writes “The social media that connect us also make it distressingly easy to be vicious. Emboldened by anonymity, we pounce on people, convicting them with scant evidence.” Mr. Conklin may now have to find within himself the strength to forgive hundreds of complete strangers who convicted, tarred, and feathered him before. And you may be sure that Etiquetteer shared that column with That Mr. Dimmick Who Thinks He Knows So Much, well known for his bitter tongue on many subjects.

In short, Mr. Conklin, through a grievous error, has proved what a gentleman he really is through his response to it - and many others have proved what ladies and gentlemen they are not.

Table Manners: Bread and Oil, Vol. 13, Issue 54

November 18th, 2014 . by Etiquetteer

Dear Etiquetteer:

I’ve recently been to two restaurants where they brought out bread and put a small dish of olive oil on the table. In less posh restaurants, they put out a bottle and you can pour some oil on your bread plate.¬† But what does one do with the small dish?¬† Does one dip into the dish (thereby risking that someone will “double dip,” or does one pour some on one’s bread dish, which invariably leads to some oil spilling down the side of the serving dish and onto the table cloth?

Or does one just ask for butter?

Dear Oiled:

Few things at the table provide as much pleasure as a warm, yielding, and delicious piece of focaccia bread almost saturated with olive oil . . . except, perhaps, a warm, yielding, and delicious dinner partner saturated with je ne sais quoi.*

Oddly enough, the rules for bread and olive oil are nearly identical to those for bread and butter. When the table is supplied with one dish of olive oil, one breaks off a bite-sized bit of bread at a time to swipe through the oil, just as one breaks off one bite-sized bit of roll to butter at a time. Double dipping is never Perfectly Proper, whether from butter dish or saucer of oil. But Etiquetteer does recognize the greater margin for error with oil, since there’s the temptation to treat it like dip. Incidentally, double dipping is also not Perfectly Proper with dip.

The key here - and many forget this - is that one does not butter the entire piece of bread at once, nor does one soak one’s entire slab of focaccia at once, as though it were a sponge.

Pouring oil from a small dish, usually a saucer or bread plate, into your own receptacle runs too much risk for stains, and also looks awkward. If you must, ask the waiter for your own. Asking for butter when you’ve been served oil is really only asking for trouble.

*No, that is not the latest scent from Chanel.

Etiquetteer’s Advice to 21st Century Brides, Vol. 13, Issue 53

November 15th, 2014 . by Etiquetteer

Dear Etiquetteer:

My beloved eldest niece - she who resembles me more than either of her parents - is getting married almost a year from now. So far she has save-the-date cards ordered, but as her mother had an awful upbringing in terms of manners, expectations, etc., I know she will not be able guide the bride-to-be. What are some of the pitfalls of which a bride-to-be should be wary in 2014-2015?

Dear Aunt Bridey:

A Young Woman approaching the altar has many pitfalls to avoid, including many within herself. The saddest and most obvious is the delusion that one’s wedding is just as important to everyone else in the entire world as it is to oneself. The next is that everyone in the entire world is going to spend every cent they have gratifying her every whim; this is what Etiquetteer calls the Gaping Maw of Bridal Need. Etiquetteer hates to disillusion these women (actually, that’s not true; Etiquetteer is fiercely eager to shred their Veils of Deliberate Illusion), but even one’s fianc√© is not likely as interested in the wedding as the bride. In fact, no one cares about the bride. They care about the bride caring about them. Surprise them all, and make your wedding guests the focus of your wedding!

Etiquetteer has some ideas about Brides Today and Perfect Propriety. Dear Bride:

  1. Be a giver, not a perpetual taker. No one likes satisfying the Gaping Maw of Bridal Need. No one owes you the wedding of your dreams.
  2. Ask yourself if this is really about you and your mother and/or mother-in-law fighting to see who can come out on top.
  3. Ask yourself if you want a perfect wedding, or if you really just want to boss people around. Be honest. If the latter, get the ladder and elope.
  4. Think carefully about the experience your wedding guests are going to have and make absolutely sure that your wedding will be a party they’ll remember for the right reasons.
  5. Make the conscious decision that you’re going to have a good time with all these people, not have an anxious time trying to avoid them so you can be with your fianc√©/husband. After all, you’ll have him for the rest of your life!
  6. It’s a wedding, not a chorus line. Choose the number of friends you want for bridal attendants, not vice versa. An even number of attendants is not necessary - good heavens, attendants themselves are not necessary! (And you’d be surprised how many of your friends will secretly thank you for sparing them the burden.)
  7. Don’t be so selfish that you force your attendants to buy hideous dresses they’ll never wear again.
  8. Don’t skimp on a gift for each of your attendants, and don’t let your fianc√© skimp either. They’re your friends after all, yes?
  9. Consider skipping the vulgarity of a bachelorette trip to Las Vegas and instead hosting a traditional bridesmaids luncheon the week before the wedding.
  10. Expect to have a tantrum, and expect to apologize afterward for it.
  11. Under no circumstances should you plan to do anything on the day of the wedding but be the bride. This means no assembly of rice bags or souvenirs or table centerpieces, no cooking, no nothing.
  12. Do not publicize information about your bridal registry until people ask, and then send it to them privately. NEVER include registry information on a save-the-date card or invitation. People do still want to believe that they’ve been invited for the Pleasure of their Company, and not for the Generosity of their Purses.
  13. Lay in some good stationery now and send your Lovely Notes of thanks as gifts are received. You may NOT wait until after the honeymoon, and you certainly are NOT given until the first anniversary to send these.
  14. Keep it simple. The budget for ostentatious little touches might be better spent on upgrading the food.
  15. Most important, plan to speak to every wedding guest personally to thank them for attending. They have taken a lot of time, trouble, and treasure to celebrate with you, and they expect to get to speak with you. They deserve your attention. Etiquetteer, of course, remains devoted to the idea of a receiving line - while recognizing that they are routinely abused by wedding guests (not always elderly ladies) who expect to have long detailed conversations with the Happy Couple. Another solution is to circulate among the tables during the wedding banquet.

Now, Aunt Bridey, Etiquetteer feels the need to advise you not to insinuate yourself too aggressively into the plans for your niece’s wedding. If you and she are so truly alike and already have a strong relationship, Etiquetteer predicts that she will reach out to you to be engaged in some way in the planning. But it would not be Perfectly Proper to usurp the place of the mother of the bride, regardless of how accurate your assessment of her abilities is. You have a beautiful opportunity to set a good example by hosting a meal in honor of the Happy Couple’s engagement for your own set of guests, with all the proper accoutrements. But let Etiquetteer be clear that this should not take place later than three months before the wedding, and it is certainly not a bridal shower. Things get busy enough the closer one gets to the Big Day.

Etiquetteer wishes joy to the Happy Couple, and peace to all involved!

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